Riding an 11-start unbeaten string, Mike Minor aims to move the Braves one step closer to a playoff berth for a second straight year.
Atlanta holds a magic number of three to secure the National League Wild Card spot, but faltered yesterday. A 4-1 loss at Nationals Park combined with St. Louis' 2-1 comeback win over the Chicago Cubs brought the Cardinals within two games of the Braves with only four contests remaining.
"You gotta win ball games," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "It's nice to watch the scoreboard and do all that kind of stuff, but we have to win our games."
After today's finale of a three-game series in the nation's capital, the Braves host NL East-champion Philadelphia, losers of eight in a row. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have three in Houston to end the season after finishing today's series at home vs. the Cubs.
Minor, who has won his last five decisions and hasn't lost since May 31 against San Diego, hasn't posted a result in his previous two appearances, both 5 2/3-inning efforts against Florida. He's 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two games vs. the Nationals in his career.
Although the Nationals' franchise has reached the postseason just once, Washington has a chance to finish strong and get to .500 or better for the first time since 2005, when the club ended 81-81.
Ross Detwiler is coming off his best start of the season. The lefty, who will toe the rubber for the Nationals, allowed three hits over 7 1/3 shutout frames in a victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday when the Nats completed a sweep of a day-night doubleheader.
Detwiler doesn't have a decision in five games (2 starts) when facing the Braves.
Chien-Ming Wang pitched six solid innings and drove in a run with his first major league hit, leading the Nationals to Saturday's win. Danny Espinosa added a two-run single for the Nationals, who bounced back from a 7-4 loss in Friday's series opener and won for the sixth time in seven games.
The Braves lost for the fourth time in six outings. They were hoping to build on Friday's win, but Wang (4-3) stymied them. He allowed just four hits, struck out four and did not issue a walk. Tom Gorzelanny, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen then closed out the six-hitter, with Storen notching his 41st save.
"I like the way he's throwing," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said about Wang, who made his 11th start since recovering from shoulder problems. "He started out a little rough and every time out has been an improvement. I had a fresh bullpen, so I didn't want to [go much further with him]. There's always next year."
Atlanta owns a slim 9-8 lead over Washington in the season series.